How Lotto works

It’s easy to imagine a new life, an extended tropical holiday and a sports car for every member of the whānau. But what are your true odds of winning? And is it possible that playing Lotto could be causing some harm?

Your actual chances of winning

Lotto NZ explains that if you buy a $7 ticket your odds of winning first division are 1 in 383,8381. You may be thinking “Hey, that’s a chance!”, but before you get excited, you should know that our brains aren’t wired to appreciate such low odds. To understand the odds of winning Lotto, it’s easier for us play a train game…2.

 

Another way to think about the odds of winning...

Throughout history humans have understood the difference between 100 soldiers and an army of 1,000. But larger numbers like 383,838 were never relevant to our understanding of the physical world. After all, who needed to count the blades of grass on a lawn or the number of stars in the sky?3

For a moment, let's think about the number of stars in the night sky. Did you know that there are only 4,548 stars visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere?4

Your odds of winning first division (1 in 383,838) with a $7 ticket are the same as picking just one correct star in the night sky, sometime over the next 84 nights. Similarly, your odds of winning Lotto Powerball with a $15 Power Dip ticket (1 in 3,838,380) are the same as choosing the right star from all the visible stars out of the next 843 nights!

So, how does Lotto work?

In New Zealand, six balls are drawn from a machine containing 40 balls, numbered 1 to 40. The big prize, called a 'First Division’ win, happens when a player draws all six numbers correctly on one line. Importantly, the order of numbers on the line doesn’t matter. 5 The Powerball is a number between 1 and 10, drawn from a separate machine.

From every $1 of combined Lotto NZ sales, 55 cents is paid out in prizes 6.

How much money would it take for you to dance around the living room?

Would $7,075 be enough? If you saved your $15 Power Dip ticket every week for ten years, you'd earn the same amount (adjusted for inflation and assuming interest rates of 2%). Check out this savings calculator.

Are you still playing Lotto just for fun?

There may be signs that playing Lotto could be doing you harm:

  • You occasionally miss out on basic items like milk and fruit because you 'want to be in to win'
  • You miss out on your savings targets or debt repayments
  • You hide playing Lotto from others
  • You feel regret after playing Lotto

Playing the occasional game can be fun. But if you suspect that it could be doing you harm then take control.

Check out these ways to control your gambling.

Please consider using a more modern browser to use the train game.
We recommend Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer 11.

Your odds of winning Lotto first division are the same as guessing exactly the right second to stop the train between Monday and 10:37am on Friday.

Your odds of winning Powerball1 are the same as guessing exactly the right second to stop the train between 1 January and 14 February at 10:13am.

Jan 01
00:00 Mon

You missed out this time... There were 3,838,380 seconds to choose from between 1 January and 10:13am on 14 February. You could be playing a VERY long time before you guess the second we’ve chosen at random.

You missed out this time... There were 383,838 seconds to choose from between Monday and 10:37am on Friday. You could be playing a VERY long time before you guess the second we’ve chosen at random.

Wow… you picked the right second to stop the train! Incredible effort - we bet you wish this was the real thing. You don’t get any prize money, but if you send your name and postal address along with the code XYZ-LOTTO-CNC-267 to c.moore@hpa.org.nz we’ll send you a free consolation prize.